We’ve got the map. Who’s got the car?

Published March 1, 2006

Even a simple trip like a family vacation needs a destination, a map, a vehicle to get there and an evaluation. (“Next time, let’s not rent a place called Scorpion Villa.”) Recently, General Synod commissioned reports on how major parts of the church were managing their journeys: the Anglican Book Centre and the various fundraising initiatives at the national office in Toronto. Those were smart moves: a qualified outsider can bring a fresh perspective and an unbiased eye. The Anglican Journal reported on the book centre report in November and on the fundraising report in this issue. Five entities on the national level ask for financial support from Canadian Anglicans: the Anglican Appeal, Anglican Journal, Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, Anglican Foundation and Gift Planning office. The Anglican Appeal supports northern dioceses, partner churches in the developing world and indigenous communities in Canada. The Journal is the church’s national, editorially-independent newspaper. The Primate’s Fund contributes to disaster relief and economic development abroad. The foundation supports local church renovations, bursaries for theology students and liturgical arts. Gift Planning guides donors who wish to remember the church in their wills and estate plans. The 73-page appeals audit, was prepared by Lorna and David Somers. Ms. Somers is vice president of McMaster University Foundation and director of development at McMaster University, which is located in Hamilton, Ont. They found much that is positive. Staff at each agency have “a very strong and laudatory commitment to, and sense of ownership in, their individual programs and agency” under an Anglican sense of mission that is “strong, compelling, unifying.” They found that sense of passion shared by donors. And anyone familiar with recipients of Anglican generosity – such as the northern dioceses or overseas partners – knows they make a dollar stretch. And there was more good news. Religously-active people of all denominations live their faith. The report didn’t put it in such terms, but clearly, they give as a matter of practicality (keeping a centre of worship running, paying a spiritual leader) and as a matter of theology, believing that sharing good fortune expresses a common humanity and reflects the will of God. But there was some not-so-good news. The agencies are doing “great” work but there is still a “huge untapped potential” because of reliance on old formulas for fundraising. Major gifts (significant donations) are not being solicited; no research is being undertaken on present as well as prospective donors. There should be programs “to get out and work with individuals face to face, to talk about not only their priorities but the church’s priorities and how the two can be blended,” said Ms. Somers. People want to give but they also want accountability; they want to know how their donations are being used. Although the five share quarters in the same building, their fundraising efforts are mostly separate from each other. The Appeal uses the Journal’s database, and gift planning benefits other agencies, but mostly the stubbornly independent Anglican spirit is gloriously on display. Each agency had strengths and weaknesses. The Appeal reports to treasurer Peter Blachford, but his office was unable to give the auditors a business plan and the 2005 fundraising goal changed significantly, from $1.1 million to $650,000. The Journal provides excellent, timely financial figures but is weak on donor recognition. Primate’s Fund has a firm sense of mission and business plan, but “it is very difficult to determine what it costs to raise funds through PWRDF.” The report noted a “sometimes-competitive culture” among fundraising efforts and said staff “displayed varying degrees of enthusiasm” about the audit. With the exception of the Journal and the Appeal, databases kept by agencies aren’t even compatible with each other. Privacy legislation may preclude sharing information about donors, but Ms. Somers said the issue bears investigation and may not be a barrier. The report’s recommendations will probably stir the most discussion – a centralized development office with an executive director and a director in each of three areas: major gifts and gift planning, annual giving and donor relations. With administrative help, the total number of new positions would be six. Some staff could probably move from an agency into the development office, but given the strain on church house budgets now, full implementation of this suggestion appears unlikely. Yet the idea of a director of development who coordinates fundraising activities, has a great deal of merit. Ms. Somers called it a “pragmatic financial investment” where individuals would be “expected to raise many, many, many times their salaries in a year.” The agencies have already taken a step towards some coordination, meeting occasionally to discuss timing of appeals and teaming up on a joint advertisement in the Journal last year. In addition, the church’s new financial-support initiative, Letting Down the Nets, “has the potential to bring together, under a single banner, the various fundraising arms of the church without requiring each agency to forfeit its independence,” said the report. The audit urges the church to be more professional, more consistent and more methodical about its call for support. It notes the traditional Anglican reluctance to talk about money, believing it is somehow unseemly. Let’s hope that attitude can be consigned to the dustbin of history. The Somers report provides an intelligent, comprehensive roadmap for the church. Now someone needs to get in the car and turn the ignition. Editor Leanne Larmondin will return to the editorial page in the April issue


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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